Above its solar panels, Alpha CubeSat will carry the first pieces of holographic art in space.

What kind of “holograms”?

When we say “holograms,” we don’t mean Princess Leia or after-death Elvis Presley concerts. Those kinds use movie projectors and screens.

Instead, Alpha’s holograms are similar to the kind on trading cards and passports. These images change when you tilt your head from side-to-side, either to reveal another picture or to show another side of a 3D object.

3D View of Alpha's Holograms


Great for interstellar messages!

Holograms offer grand possibilities. Imagine a hologram with five images: it could hold five times the information of a single flat message plaque! Now up that number to thousands. Alpha will only have five 3D pictures above its solar panels. But future space holograms might contain thousands of images—artwork and photos from across history.

Alpha’s holograms are exposures of clay scupltures by artist C Bangs. The moth, fish, woman, man, and cat serve as ambassadors of life.

Alpha will be staying just above Earth. But its descendants may be speeding through Alpha Centauri, our nearest star system. Like the Voyager Golden Records and the Pioneer Plaques before us, we can’t help but send a part of ourselves into the vastness.

Holograms are helpful, too

Holograms have applications beyond artwork. Future sails may have a hologram of a sphere across their entire surface, which would help stabilize the sail in a laser beam. Laser beams are the method of choice for accelerating a light sail up to 20% the speed of light.

By proving they can function in space, Alpha CubeSat hopes to pave the way for holograms on light sails—as well as holograms that carry a piece of home into the cosmos.



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